Nov 23, 2012

Harley Cross: A Threatened Childhood

 Prejudice always seems to involve accusations that the despised group wants to "get" our kids. During the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of killing Christian children to make Passover matzah.  Gypsies were accused of kidnapping kids to raise as their own.  There have been panics over Satanic ritual abuse, LSD-tainted Halloween candy, brainwashing cults, alien abductions.  And gay men.  The threat is often a sexual threat, the alien out to destroy not only life but innocence, which means heterosexual innocence, which means a heterosexist future.

Boys were threatened by a gay-vague menace quite often during the 1970s, in The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972),  Burnt Offerings (1976), and Salem's Lot (1979).  During the 1980s, Harley Cross made a career of playing them.

In 1986, at the age of eight, Harley played a boy kidnapped (along with his sister) by a gay-vague psychopath in Where are the Children?, an adaption of the Mary Higgins Clark thriller.

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that combines traditional West African practices with Roman Catholicism.  It is entirely gay friendly.  But in The Believers (1978), it is an evil cult that leers at half-naked little boys before killing them.

Psychiatrist Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen) goes to New York to investigate a rash of child murders and gradually comes to realize that the cult has targeted his nine-year son Chris (Harley).  Not to worry; after the requisite falling-in-love montage establishes that Cal is heterosexual, he rescues Chris and destroys the cult.  And manages it all without a single moment of buddy-bonding.

In Cohen and Tate (1988), the nine-year old Travis (Harley) is kidnapped by two mismatched thugs, the older, professional, heterosexual Cohen (Roy Scheider of Jaws) and the "queer" loose-cannon Tate (Adam Baldwin). Travis plays the two against each other, inducing Cohen to feel paternal sympathy and try to protect him from the increasingly violent Tate.  Cohen ends up killing himself to avoid having to kill the boy.

As Harley entered adolescence, the queer threat became more overtly sexual. In The Boy Who Cried Bitch (1991), a young teenager with the ironic name Dan Love (Harley) is molested by the groundskeeper.  He immediately "becomes" gay (although he likes girls), as well as manipulative, conniving, unstable, and amoral.  Two 1990s hunks, Jesse Bradford and J.D. Daniel, play his longsuffering (and heterosexual) brothers.

Harley disappears on an episode of Law and Order (1992), is sent to a brutal mental institution in Crazy for a Kiss (1995), and in Perdita Durango (1997), runs afoul of that evil Santeria cult again.  Teenage Duane and his girlfriend are kidnapped by a cultist with the ironic name Romeo Doloroso (Jauvier Bardem), and his girlfriend Perdita (Rosie Perez), who rape, torture, and hang them.

In Interstate 84 (2000), Harley got to become the queer threat, the villainous Freddy who harasses idiot savant Hap (Joel Garland).

Harley still acts on occasion; he played a young gay man interviewed by the famous sex researcher in Kinsey (2004).  But today he is primarily focused on his company, Hint Mints, an organic, vegan, socially responsible upscale breath mint brand.

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